By Max Clarke

Leading business trainer for entrepreneurs and founding Dragons’ Den star Doug Richard has teamed up with the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship (NCGE) to launch a nationwide training programme for academics that will boost entrepreneurship in universities.

With the support of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, The Enterprising Academic Programme will challenge academics and researchers to understand the business context of the world they live in and the potential business impact of their academic research. The programme is being sponsored by Santander and the Technology Strategy Board.

The programme, which will be presented by Doug Richard himself, aims to stimulate a more entrepreneurial approach by discovering, creating and developing more entrepreneurial opportunities. It will also encourage research activity that will have a greater economic impact.

The programme will do this by providing academic researchers with the tools they need to translate innovation and research into economic and social benefit.

Commenting on the new programme, Doug Richard said: “If you believe like I do that entrepreneurship is the pathfinder to achieving economic recovery then helping our universities to nurture an entrepreneurial culture and business awareness is essential. Together with NCGE we will unite the UK’s academic fire power with business know-how to deliver real economic benefits.”

CEO of the NCGE, Ian Robertson said: “The UK is going through a period of rapid change. The economic downturn and the increased competitiveness from other nations means that our universities have to deliver greater impact through their research. We want to help them do that in the most practical way possible. We’re therefore delighted to be working with someone of Doug Richard’s standing. I can think of no-one better to inspire and educate our academics.”

Minister for Business and Enterprise Mark Prisk MP said: "It's vital we break down the perceived barriers between academia and business, especially given the crucial role our universities can have in enabling innovation. That's why the Government is delighted to support this venture, as part of our commitment to promote entrepreneurship for all."

Sue Hayes, Managing Director of Santander Business Banking, who will be speaking at the launch, said: “Santander Business Banking is proud to be one of the main sponsors of the NCGE Enterprising Academic Programme. Santander is a firm supporter of Higher Education and has links with 45 universities in the UK and more than 900 universities worldwide. In addition, Santander Business Banking is committed to supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses, so we are delighted to be involved in this Programme.”

Commenting on the Technology Strategy Board's support, it’s Chief Executive, Iain Gray, said: "We are delighted to sponsor the Enterprising Academic Programme. As the government’s main innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board brings business and research together to support and accelerate the development of innovative products and technologies that will create and safeguard future economic growth. Converting academic research into innovations that bring about economic and social benefits is vital and we look forward to the success of this initiative."

The launch event is being held on 14th January 2011 at the University of Hertfordshire, recent winners of the Entrepreneurial University of the Year Award, and will be followed by events the length and breadth of the UK.